What is this ‘blended learning’ thing?

A conversation with a knowledgeable and experienced educator today highlighted for me that even though we have all heard about ‘blended learning’ and ‘flipped classrooms’, not all teachers understand exactly what it means for their teaching.

On a very basic level, blended learning means incorporating ICT into your classroom to support teaching and learning.  Not as a one-off special experience or game, but actually an integral part of your teaching and the students’ learning.  Flipping the classroom, in essence, means putting learning in the hands of the students.  As an educator, you still play an important role, but rather than old school ‘chalk and talk’, you are there to facilitate the students’ learning.

screenshot-188.png

Debate surrounds both of these concepts (as with most ideas in education) with blended learning sometimes being used as a synonym for personalised learning, and schools creating some fabulous new roles for their teachers in the flipped classroom (‘learning activator’ is a prime example).

screenshot-189.png

But on a practical level, how do we start in our classroom?  Firstly, ensure that you understand if their are any restrictions in your state, for example, QLD schools can’t use Google platforms because data is stored overseas (may use something like Microsoft Office Suite instead, though not always seen as class and student friendly as the Google equivalents).  Also, check with the relevant staff member in school regarding any other restrictions on use of online sources.  Once you have your head around that… you’re good to go!

Screenshot (190)

I’ve peppered this blog with screen shots from a document I made recently to share with my pre-service teaching students.  I hope the resources provide some inspiration.  Feel free to share with colleagues and I would love feedback on your favourite online resources and apps that you feel really support blended learning / flipped classrooms.  Free, easy and effective resources for teachers are always best!

Comment on Twitter @MeganPedler or on WordPress teach2engage.wordpress.com

 

Advertisements

Top tips to engage students and support positive behaviour

“We want the top 10!  No, the top 5!… No, no… give us the top 3… it’s all we have time for!”.

Speaking to teacher colleagues and pre-service teachers it’s clear that teachers want more information about how to improve student engagement and how to promote positive behaviour in their classrooms… but just don’t have time to do the research.

apple on books photo

So…my pick for the top 5 strategies to promote students’ behavioural engagement in the classroom (sorry, I just couldn’t keep it to 3!):

  1. Be a role model: model the behaviour and social skills you expect from your students (don’t shout or snap if you don’t want them to).
  2. Acknowledge and praise good behaviour every chance you get (catch them being good).
  3. Manage your classroom pro-actively, rather than reacting, using verbal and non-verbal communication and behaviour management strategies.
  4. Be consistent: respond to behaviour and enforce rules and consequences fairly and consistently, no matter who the rule breakers are.
  5. Ask if students need help and make sure they understand the lesson content and the classroom rules.

These strategies are supported by research on student engagement, however, on a more practical level, we know as teachers that a positive, caring and consistent learning environment may stop behavioural issues in the classroom before they even begin.

Having clear and high expectations means that students know what is expected of them in your classroom.  If they know you’ll help them when they raise their hand, there is a better chance they will keep asking for help.  Using non-controlling and informational language, instead of constantly bribing and coercing (or worse, pleading with) students to behave, means that students know they are in your classroom to learn.

I’ve seen students who battled against their teachers every lesson for years approach an ex-teacher in the street, after they’ve finished high school, and say “Thank you Miss / Sir, I really liked your classes and learned a lot.  Sorry a was such a pain”.

We can all have a positive impact on our students’ behavioural engagement in the classroom.  We can do it because we can be role models for them while they’re at school, we can praise their good behaviour when we see it, we can be pro-active and consistent in our behaviour management, and we can support them to understand the school rules and what they are learning.  By doing all this we contribute to enhancing their engagement in their learning and we are playing our role in their future achievements and outcomes.

There is so much we can do to limit negative behaviour before it even rears its head in the classroom.

But it takes time.  Sometimes a long time.  And it’s exhausting.  But it does make a difference. 

Why Student Engagement?

Why would someone choose to dedicate years of study and research to student engagement? The simple answer is, “Because it matters”.

20180328_205641.jpg

For many years as a secondary school teacher I saw the varied behaviour and interest of students in other teachers’ classes and my own. I heard teachers talk about this constantly in the staff room, often without answers to how things could change. As my career progressed from newly qualified teacher to a more experienced teacher these differences in student engagement became more obvious to me.

Why was a student an absolute terror for one teacher but an angel for another? Why did a student do all the homework and involve themselves in extra-curricular activities for one subject and barely pay attention in another? I thought it came down to some teachers’ behaviour management strategies (or lack of) and the resources they used in class (or lack of). It turns out there’s more to it than that.

So, who thinks engagement is important and why should teachers care?

Australian teachers are acknowledged for their “powerful impact on students” by the NSW Education Standards Authority. Basically: teachers are important, and I actually believe we are the key to improving engagement in the classroom.

Renowned educational researcher John Hattie found that teachers accounted for about 30% of the variance in students’ success and achievement in school. There has been speculation that if teachers could have this much impact on students’ achievement, perhaps they could have a similar impact on their engagement (Van Uden, Ritzen, & Pieters, 2013).

Indeed, there is an overlap between the strategies identified in student engagement research and the Australian Professional Teaching Standards (AITSL). Examples of important parallels are: teachers having a knowledge of their students, the use of differentiation, setting challenging learning goals, using a variety of teaching strategies and resources, managing classroom activities and behaviour, and providing feedback to students.

So, not only are teachers recognised by Australian education authorities as having impact in the classroom, they are expected to demonstrate skills that support student engagement as set out by the Professional Teaching Standards.

In 2004, Fredricks and her colleagues assembled a literature review in an effort to explain and define student engagement. What they found was that student engagement “has the potential to link … how students behave, how they feel, and how they think. Ultimately, although engagement might begin with liking or participating, it can result in commitment or investment and thus may be a key to diminishing student apathy and enhancing learning” (p. 83). Improving engagement in our classrooms may be the key to reaching those students that we struggle to teach or connect with.

Tens of thousands of articles have been published on the topic of student engagement. Teachers don’t have the luxury of spare time to read journal articles and research, so perhaps over the course of these blogs I can serve it up in digestible chunks.

So, what exactly is student engagement and how do we promote it in the classroom?

Stay tuned for the next blog. Coming soon… @MeganPedler #teach2engage

References

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (n.d.) Australian professional teaching standards. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/standards

Fredricks, J.A., Blumenfeld, P.C., & Paris, A.H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59-109.

Hattie, J. (2014). Visible Learning for Teachers. London, United Kingdom; Taylor & Francis Ltd.

NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). (2018). Australian professional standards for teachers. Retrieved from https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/wcm/connect/8658b2fa-62d3-40ca-a8d9-02309a2c67a1/australian-professional-standards-teachers.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=

Van Uden, J.M., Ritzen, H., & Pieters, J.M. (2013). I think I can engage my students. Teachers’ perceptions of student engagement and their beliefs about being a teacher. Teaching and Teacher Education, 32, 43-54.